US & World

Obama: 'No excuse' for Baltimore violence

BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 27:  People walk past burning cars near the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and North Avenue, April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Riots have erupted in Baltimore following the funeral service for Freddie Gray, who died last week while in Baltimore Police custody. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 27: People walk past burning cars near the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and North Avenue, April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Riots have erupted in Baltimore following the funeral service for Freddie Gray, who died last week while in Baltimore Police custody. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 27:  People walk past burning cars near the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and North Avenue, April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Riots have erupted in Baltimore following the funeral service for Freddie Gray, who died last week while in Baltimore Police custody. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 27: People carrying goods leave a CVS pharmacy near the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and North Avenue , April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Riots have erupted in Baltimore following the funeral service for Freddie Gray, who died last week while in Baltimore Police custody. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 27:  People walk past burning cars near the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and North Avenue, April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Riots have erupted in Baltimore following the funeral service for Freddie Gray, who died last week while in Baltimore Police custody. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 27: With Baltimore Police officers in riot gear lining the street, a man stands at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and North Avenue , April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Riots have erupted in Baltimore following the funeral service for Freddie Gray, who died last week while in Baltimore Police custody. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 27:  People walk past burning cars near the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and North Avenue, April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Riots have erupted in Baltimore following the funeral service for Freddie Gray, who died last week while in Baltimore Police custody. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Baltimore police officers carry an injured comrade from the streets near Mondawmin Mall April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Violent street clashes erupted in Baltimore on Monday after friends and family gathered for the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man whose death in custody triggered a fresh wave of protests over US police tactics. Police said at least seven officers were injured -- one of them was unresponsive -- as youths hurled bricks and bottles and destroyed at least one police vehicle in the vicinity of the shopping mall not far from the church where the funeral took place. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 27:  People walk past burning cars near the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and North Avenue, April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Riots have erupted in Baltimore following the funeral service for Freddie Gray, who died last week while in Baltimore Police custody. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 27: An announcement on the scoreboard notifies fans that the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox has been postponed at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The move comes amid violent clashes between police and youths, according to news reports, the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray on April 19 after suffering a fatal spinal injury while in police custody. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 27:  People walk past burning cars near the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and North Avenue, April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Riots have erupted in Baltimore following the funeral service for Freddie Gray, who died last week while in Baltimore Police custody. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Protesters stand off with police during a march in honor of Freddie Gray on April 25, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 27:  People walk past burning cars near the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and North Avenue, April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Riots have erupted in Baltimore following the funeral service for Freddie Gray, who died last week while in Baltimore Police custody. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Friends and relatives say their last goodbyes to Freddie Gray as his casket is lowered into his grave at the Woodland Cemetery April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


President Obama today said there's "no excuse" for the violence in Baltimore but he called the deaths of several black men by police "a slow rolling crisis."

Speaking at a White House press conference as the National Guard was called in to Baltimore to enforce the peace, Obama said looters are not protesting but stealing and they should be treated as criminals.

The president also said the case should prompt some "soul searching" in America about communities where young men are more likely to end up in jail or dead than completing school. He said police shouldn't be expected to do the "dirty work" and solutions should involve early education, criminal justice reform and job training. He said Americans can't just "pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns."

"We have seen too many instances of what appears to be police officers interacting with individuals, primarily African-American, often poor, in ways that raise troubling questions. It comes up, it seems like, once a week now," Obama said. He said it's not new, but there's new awareness as a result of cameras and social media.

Rioting broke out Monday after the funeral for Freddie Gray, a black man who died in police custody under mysterious circumstances. Rioters plunged part of Baltimore into chaos, torching a pharmacy, setting police cars ablaze and throwing bricks at officers hours after thousands mourned Gray.

The governor declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard to restore order. A weeklong, daily curfew was imposed beginning Tuesday from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., the mayor said. At least 15 officers were hurt, and some two dozen people were arrested. Two officers remained hospitalized, police said.

The Baltimore Police Department issued a nationwide “Blue Alert” Monday afternoon, saying the Bloods, Crips and Black Guerilla Family street gangs in that city have called for attacks on police around the country in response to the death of Freddie Gray.

In Los Angeles Monday night, six people were arrested during a protest against police brutality. Some 50 people demonstrated in South L.A. in a march coordinated with several across the country in solidarity with protesters in Baltimore.

Police say three men and three women were arrested, most for refusing to obey officers' orders to stop blocking traffic and disperse. Police say two were arrested for trying to help the other four escape police custody.

Before the South L.A. demonstration, Los Angeles Police Department officials already ordered officers to travel in pairs in patrol cars throughout the city, said LAPD Lt. John Jenal.

Most LAPD officers already work in pairs. Detectives and supervisors, however, will sometimes work alone, Jenal said. LAPD officers have been working in pairs since Friday after a threat was issued against military and police personnel by ISIS, Jenal said.

“This extends that order," Jenal said. “It won’t cause an interruption to service.”

Monday's riot in Baltimore was the latest flare-up over the mysterious death of Freddie Gray, whose fatal encounter with officers came amid the national debate over police use of force, especially when black suspects are involved. Gray was African-American.

Officers wearing helmets and wielding shields occasionally used pepper spray to keep the rioters back. For the most part, though, they relied on line formations to keep protesters at bay.

Emergency officials were constantly thwarted as they tried to restore calm. Firefighters trying to put out a blaze at a CVS store were hindered by someone who sliced holes in a hose connected to a fire hydrant, spraying water all over the street and nearby buildings.

The smell of burned rubber wafted in the air in one neighborhood where youths were looting a liquor store. Police stood still nearby as people drank looted alcohol. Glass and trash littered the streets, and small fires were scattered about. One person from a church tried to shout something from a megaphone as two cars burned.

"Too many people have spent generations building up this city for it to be destroyed by thugs, who in a very senseless way, are trying to tear down what so many have fought for, tearing down businesses, tearing down and destroying property, things that we know will impact our community for years," said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a lifelong resident of the city.

Gray's family was shocked by the violence and was lying low; instead, they hoped to organize a peace march later in the week, said family attorney Billy Murphy. He said they did not know the riot was going to happen and urged calm.

"They don't want this movement nationally to be marred by violence," he said. "It makes no sense."

Police urged parents to locate their children and bring them home. Many of those on the streets appeared to be African-American youths, wearing backpacks and khaki pants that are a part of many public school uniforms.

The riot broke out just as high school let out, and at a key city bus depot for student commuters around Mondawmin Mall, a shopping area northwest of downtown Baltimore. It shifted about a mile away later to the heart of an older shopping district and near where Gray first encountered police. Both commercial areas are in African-American neighborhoods.

Later in the day, people began looting clothing and other items from stores at the mall, which became unprotected as police moved away from the area. About three dozen officers returned, trying to arrest looters but driving many away by firing pellet guns and rubber bullets.

Downtown Baltimore, the Inner Harbor tourist attractions and the city's baseball and football stadiums are nearly 4 miles away. While the violence had not yet reached City Hall and the Camden Yards area, the Orioles canceled Monday's game for safety precautions.

Many who had never met Gray gathered earlier in the day in a Baltimore church to bid him farewell and press for more accountability among law enforcement.

The 2,500-capacity New Shiloh Baptist church was filled with mourners. But even the funeral could not ease mounting tensions.

Police said in a news release sent while the funeral was underway that the department had received a "credible threat" that three notoriously violent gangs are now working together to "take out" law enforcement officers.

A small group of mourners started lining up about two hours ahead of Monday's funeral. Placed atop Gray's body was a white pillow with a screened picture of him. A projector aimed at two screens on the walls showed the words "Black Lives Matter & All Lives Matter."

The service lasted nearly two hours, with dignitaries in attendance including former Maryland representative and NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume and current Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes.

Erica Garner, 24, the daughter of Eric Garner, attended Gray's funeral. She said she came after seeing video of Gray's arrest, which she said reminded her of her father's shouts that he could not breathe when he was being arrested on a New York City street. Garner died during the confrontation.

"It's like there is no accountability, no justice," she said. "It's like we're back in the '50s, back in the Martin Luther King days. When is our day to be free going to come?"

With the Rev. Jesse Jackson sitting behind him, the Rev. Jamal Bryant gave a rousing and spirited eulogy for Freddie Gray, a message that received a standing ovation from the crowded church.

Bryant said Gray's death would spur further protests, and he urged those in the audience to join.

"Freddie's death is not in vain," Bryant said. "After this day, we're going to keep on marching. After this day, we're going to keep demanding justice."

Gray was arrested after making eye contact with officers and then running away, police said. He was held down, handcuffed and loaded into a van without a seat belt. Leg cuffs were put on him when he became irate inside.

He asked for medical help several times even before being put in the van, but paramedics were not called until after a 30-minute ride. Police have acknowledged he should have received medical attention on the spot where he was arrested, but they have not said how his spine was injured.

This story has been updated.